Senator John Thune
Thousands of South Dakotans, including my own father back in my hometown of Murdo, depend on Medicare to help with the cost of their health care. Since 1997, beneficiaries’ access to quality care has been threatened due to Medicare’s use of a flawed physician reimbursement formula known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). The formula was implemented to help curb the increasing costs associated with the Medicare program. Unfortunately, rather than helping to rein in costs, the caps associated with the SGR would have made large payment cuts to Medicare physicians, providing a disincentive for doctors to accept Medicare patients. Since then, Congress has been kicking the can down the road, patching this defective payment system 17 times.
Congress recognized how important it is to provide certainty to Medicare beneficiaries and physicians, which is why on April 14, the Senate approved the bipartisan Medicare Access and Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. This legislation repeals the flawed SGR formula and modernizes Medicare payments to incentivize high-quality, low-cost care for seniors.
I am pleased that Medicare payment modernization included a provision I championed that gives rural providers sufficient technical assistance to ensure they are able to effectively transition into new payment models. Additionally, I am pleased that the bill included provisions that I helped spearhead that would improve access to durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies through Medicare. These are just a few of the many reforms included in the bill that are vital to ensuring that South Dakota seniors continue receiving high quality, affordable health care.Not only do our seniors deserve access to quality and efficient health care, but our physicians should be paid for the quality of care they provide, not the volume of services they provide. I will continue working to strengthen Medicare to ensure beneficiaries receive the best care possible, while improving access to care in rural communities. There is more work to be done to protect and preserve this important program, but the passage of the Medicare Access and Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act was an important first step to ensure we make needed reforms that will continue putting South Dakota seniors first.